France and the elimination of cluster munitions

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Disarmament - Destruction of French cluster munition stockpiles complete – Joint statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Ministry of Defense (June 30, 2016)

At the meeting of the National Commission for the Elimination of Anti-Personnel Mines (CNEMA) on June 30, the Defense Ministry confirmed that operations to destroy all of France’s cluster munition stockpiles were complete, in accordance with the 2008 Oslo Convention prohibiting the use, production, stockpile and transfer of cluster bombs.

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International instruments to combat cluster bombs

The Oslo Convention

The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) is an international instrument prohibiting the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions, and the outcome of a process launched in 2007 by 46 States, including France. The CCM was adopted in Dublin on 30 May 2008 and signed in Oslo on 3 and 4 December 2008 by 94 States. It entered into force on 1 August 2010. According to Article 2 of the Convention, the term "cluster munition" means "a conventional munition that is designed to disperse or release explosive submunitions each weighing less than 20 kilograms, and includes those explosive submunitions."

The text, which supports the same disarmament dynamic as the Ottawa Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, provides for

  • the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of most cluster munitions. Exceptions exist concerning munitions that contain fewer than ten explosive submunitions, if each submunition weighs more than four kilograms and is equipped with an electronic self-deactivating feature and self-destruction mechanism;
  • the clearance and destruction of cluster munition remnants in contaminated areas within a period of ten years that can be extended in the event of difficult circumstances;
  • the destruction of prohibited cluster munitions within a period of eight years that can also be extended;
  • advanced provisions concerning international cooperation and victim assistance.However, the CCM gives States Parties the possibility to engage in military cooperation and operations with States not party to the Convention.

As at 31 October 2014, the Convention had 88 States Parties and 27 Signatories. Nevertheless, most of the major possessors and manufacturers of cluster munitions, such as the United States, Russia, India, Israel, Pakistan, China and South Korea, have refused to join the Convention on the grounds of the military need for cluster munitions. The work for the universalization of the Convention is therefore far from completed.

Furthermore, the States Parties convene at the same period each year to monitor the Convention. Intersessional Meetings are also held twice a year.

France’s action

France has not used cluster munitions since 1991 and ceased to manufacture them in 2002.

During the Oslo Convention negotiations, France distinguished itself through a significant gesture by announcing the immediate withdrawal of 90% of French cluster munition stockpiles. This initiative was in fact followed by the United Kingdom and Germany. Even before the Convention entered into force, France had thus decided to decommission all its munitions that had been prohibited by the Convention, namely the M26 rocket and the 155 mm grenade shell.

From the outset of negotiations, France has played a key role as facilitator between cluster munition affected States and cluster munition States, and industrialized countries and developing countries, so as to ensure that this Treaty would be as effective as possible from a humanitarian standpoint. It has mobilized to rally the greatest number of countries. France has defended an unambiguous position, namely banning all cluster munitions, which are unacceptable because of the humanitarian damage they cause.

Internally, the national bill implementing the Treaty was passed by the National Assembly on 6 July 2010 and enacted on 20 July (Act No. 2010-819): the Convention entered into force on 1 August 2010 and was published on that date (Decree No. 2010-900).

In addition, the national implementation of the Oslo Convention is ensured by the National Commission for the Elimination of Anti-Personnel Mines (CNEMA), whose mandate has been expanded to include cluster munitions, under the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Lastly, the Convention currently only covers the holders of 10% of cluster munition stockpiles in the world. It is for this reason that France is permanently working on outreach and advocacy, both with Signatories which are close to ratification, and with non-Signatories, in order to universalize the norm introduced by the Convention.

Reference texts

Updated: December 2014